Earth Day is coming up on Monday, April 22nd, and I’d love for you to join me and a hundred of our closest friends to celebrate in style at the Mansions on Fifth from 6-8pm.
Our neighborhood schools are the anchors of our communities. They are the places where our children spend a great deal of their time, they are community centers where our neighborhood organizations gather, they are event spaces where we come together to celebrate the arts, and they are economic attractors that can bring in small businesses and development opportunities. Unfortunately population decline over the past several decades and funding cuts at the state level have shuttered many of our neighborhood schools and turned these former assets into empty shells in the heart of our neighborhoods. Recognizing that these population shifts are real and that resources are scarce we have to find innovative new ways to keep our neighborhood schools open without bankrupting our entire school system.
The energy used by buildings to keep our offices, stores, homes, and stadiums heated in the winter, cooled in the summer, and lighted all year round represents a significant portion of the total energy used every year. It also represents a lot of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere and a lot of money wasted on inefficiencies. Cities around the country have started to look more closely at how large buildings use energy, and through this process of examining usage they have been able to take concrete steps to make buildings more efficient and save energy and money. Through partnerships with the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and organizations like Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and the Green Building Alliance, we can create a program to help building owners and managers track their energy use and make adjustments to save them energy and money.
Pittsburgh’s construction industry is booming, thanks to a healthy regional economy and some of the best developers and contractors in the United States. We all want to see high-quality, community-supported development happening across the City of Pittsburgh and as Mayor I will make sure that this development boom continues and starts to spread to neighborhoods that have lacked investment for far too long. In supporting development, we also need to take some steps to make sure that we minimize waste and environmental impacts. One way to do this is to work with developers and construction companies to help them recycle or reuse as much building material as possible when they demolish or renovate existing buildings and to preserve historical materials and building components.
Despite our region’s reputation as a bit overcast, we have vast untapped solar energy potential and a dedicated group of solar manufacturers and installers both small and large. However, Allegheny County is one of the most fractionalized governments in the country and, with well over 100 local governments with their own rules and regulations, it can be very difficult for these companies to market their solar panels and have them installed. This presents us with a great opportunity to work collaboratively with environmental organizations, labor unions, solar manufacturers and installers, and leaders from all of the County’s municipalities to find ways to standardize regulations for solar panels, while protecting the interests of residents.
In 2009 a broad-based coalition of faith-based groups, labor unions, environmental organizations, and community leaders came together to help City Council pass three groundbreaking new laws that promised to dramatically change how public dollars are spent on private developments. This package of laws offered fair wages to employees at new developments, cleaner air through cleaner construction practices, and cleaner water through modern stormwater management techniques. City Council passed these laws unanimously and they went to the Mayor’s office to sit on a shelf and never be implemented.
A green roof, a low-maintenance layer of native vegetation covering most or all of the flat surface of a building, can substantially reduce energy costs, provide a stormwater management function, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cities across the world have seen a dramatic increase in the number of buildings with green roofs as energy costs rise and the threat of climate change becomes more apparent. Pittsburgh has millions of square feet of flat roof surface and an opportunity to promote the installation of green roofs throughout the city.
Trees provide a myriad of benefits to our city and its residents. They clean our air, provide oxygen, and cool our streets and homes which lessens energy consumption. They help to control storm water runoff and increase our water quality. They lessen our stress and improve our mood. Tree Pittsburgh is dedicated to protecting and growing our urban forest and they have a class for you if you’d like to help keep Pittsburgh green one tree at a time.
Pittsburgh’s historic buildings are irreplaceable treasures that make our city unique and give it a character and presence that many newer cities spend millions of dollars to try to replicate. We must start to recognize the incredible value of these architectural gems and use them to our advantage to serve as cornerstones for neighborhood revitalization and economic growth. Too often we discard one-of-a-kind historic buildings in the name of “progress” and replace them with cookie-cutter developments that add nothing to the character of the city. That has to stop.
Pittsburgh’s narrow streets and working-class row houses are part of its charm and are part of what make our neighborhoods special. But we all know how difficult it can be to keep up the alleyways behind these row houses and narrow streets. We have hundreds of miles of alleyways in Pittsburgh that have fallen into total disrepair, many of which are too full of potholes, debris, and overgrowth to even drive through safely.